First, I apologize for the lack of posting regularly. The Barr household is in such disarray, I am thankful if I remember to put on pants... uh oh... will be right back............ okey dokey. Got my pants on, now we can carry on as though I am normal ;) Hubby and I are buying a new condo. Egad. What were we thinking, in the middle of a pandemic? I mean, why not? Supplies are hard to come by, everything is backlogged, we cannot go to design centers to look at flooring, lights, paint colors. Everything is virtual. Sure! Let's buy a new house! I am not even going to touch the fact we have to sell our own home in the meantime.
Head - desk.
In the midst of all this, my husband got some devasting news and his treatment starts next week. Every second day for ten days. We will know if it has been successful by June - Just in time to move into the new condo. Still, hubby insists I keep writing, but it is sooo hard to write about love when the one you love is hurting. Needless to say, this has pushed back my anticipated publishing date. I only have about four chapters to go, but my heart is just not in it at this time. I am sure you understand.
When breakfast was over, Jane and Elizabeth were joined upstairs by Mr. Bingley’s sisters. Although they did not advance very far into the room, quitting the room when Mr. Jones, the local apothecary arrived, Elizabeth was touched by their affection and solicitude toward her sister. Having examined his patient, Mr. Jones said, as might be supposed, that Jane had caught a violent cold and they must endeavor to get the better of it. To that end, he advised her to return to bed and promised her some draughts. Miss Bingley reappeared when the clock struck three.
“I came to inquire how Miss Bennet is doing and ask if you want me to call for the chaise. It is far too late in the day to walk safely back to Longbourn.”
“Thank you for your kind concern and offer, Miss Bingley.” Elizabeth looked down at Jane with some concern. “I am worried about her fever, yet it is getting late and I must return home.”
“Please, do not leave me, Lizzy.”
Jane began to cough upon speaking and had to be helped into a sitting position to drink a bit of water. Miss Bingley approached the bed and took Jane’s hand in hers.
“Do not worry, Miss Bennet. I will have Mrs. Nichols prepare a room for your sister. We all want you to return to the pink of health.”
Elizabeth could not help but smile when Jane’s whole body relaxed into the softness of the bed at the promise her beloved sister would not be leaving her side. She then turned her attention to Miss Bingley.
“If I may, I will write a note to my father informing him of my wish to remain with Jane and have him send a supply of clothes for our stay.”
“Of course, Miss Eliza. I shall have a footman attend you directly.”
She spent the rest of the afternoon tending Jane and around six-thirty Elizabeth went downstairs for dinner. Although she spent some time in the drawingroom after the meal, she was too distracted to do much more than read, to the dismay of Miss Bingley and her sister. At their uncalled-for censure, and before she said words she could not return to her mouth, she bid them goodnight.
She passed the chief of the night in her sister’s room, and in the morning was secretly pleased by the inquiry which she very early received from Mr. Bingley via a housemaid.
“Please tell Mr. Bingley my sister is better than yesterday, yet still feeling unwell.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the housemaid said with a polite curtsy before exiting the room.
Not more than ten minutes passed before there was a knock on the door and Elizabeth opened it to find Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.
“How is our patient today, Miss Eliza?”
All three ladies looked toward the bed where Jane lay flushed, yet pale.
“As you see, she is not much better. If you do not mind, I would like to send a note to Longbourn and ask my father attend to judge for himself whether Jane should return home or trespass on your kindness for another day.”
The note was immediately dispatched, and its contents quickly complied with, surprisingly, by Mrs. Bennet. Accompanied by her two youngest, they showed up at the front door before the Netherfield party had even begun breaking their fast. After being taken upstairs, Mrs. Bennet had a brief conversation with the apothecary, clucked and fussed over Jane for a bit, then completely ignored her and Elizabeth to gossip with her daughters.
Could not Lydia and Kitty have remained at home? There was no reason for them to attend with Mrs. Bennet and then behave as if they were in their own drawingroom. Elizabeth wondered why her father allowed Mrs. Bennet to attend in his stead, especially when Jane would never get much rest with the three of them chattering like chipmunks.
No more than a half-hour passed when Miss Bingley, having finished her morning meal, stopped by again and invited them to attend her in the breakfast parlor for a cup of tea. Upon receiving said invitation, all of them, save Jane, made their way downstairs, whereupon, Bingley met them with hopes that Miss Bennet was not worse than expected.
“She is a great deal too ill to be moved,” Mrs. Bennet exclaimed with a determined lift of her chin, a reflexive movement Elizabeth recognized when her stepmother was stretching the truth for her own means. “Mr. Jones says we must not think of moving her and we must trespass a little longer on your kindness.”
As it seemed Mr. Bingley was just as desirous as Mrs. Bennet for Jane to remain at Netherfield, nothing more was said on the matter. For one brief moment, Elizabeth hoped Mrs. Bennet would not prove how vulgar she was, nor do anything to foil Jane’s chance at gaining Mr. Bingley’s unwavering devotion. But…, she opened her mouth and began rhapsodizing about Jane’s beauty and how men sought her attention.
“When Jane was only fifteen, there was a gentleman so much in love with her, I was sure he would make an offer. But, he did not. Perhaps he thought her too young. However, he wrote some verses on her, and very pretty they were.”
“And so ended his affection, which Jane had never returned as her heart had not been engaged,” Elizabeth said impatiently.
What Mrs. Bennet failed to inform the captive audience was Jane’s would-be suitor had been a gentleman in his late forties. Upon discovery of this relevant fact, Papa had been absolutely furious his wife had pushed Jane toward a man older than himself. Elizabeth knew if her sister were in the room right now, her cheeks would be scalded red with mortification at this piece of gossip being re-visited.
A somewhat awkward pause ensued, causing Elizabeth to tremble at the thought of Mrs. Bennet exposing herself again, but to her surprise and everlasting gratitude, Mrs. Bennet repeated her thanks to Mr. Bingley for his kindness to Jane, with an apology for troubling him also with Lizzy. She then called for their carriage to be ordered ready and while waiting, Lydia brought up the fact Mr. Bingley had promised to host a ball, adding it would be the most shameful thing in the world if he did not keep his word. His response provoked a delighted reaction from all the ladies. The exception being Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.
“I am perfectly ready, I assure you, to keep my engagement and you shall name the very day of the ball. Although we will wait until your sister has recovered, you would not wish to be dancing while she is ill.”
Lydia, having gotten her way was all smiling, with declarations that of course, they would wait until Jane was healthy and a delay would mean some of the officers from the ____shire Militia were sure to attend, guaranteeing her a night full of dancing.
With her stepmother and her daughters safely away, Elizabeth returned to Jane’s side to await the arrival of their trunks. She wondered why Mrs. Bennet had not brought them with her, but a whispered comment from Kitty prior to their departure let her know Mrs. Bennet had intercepted Elizabeth’s notes to her husband and came to Netherfield before he knew what was happening. As such, there had been no time to pack anything.
Not even an hour had passed when the sound of another carriage drew Elizabeth to the window. Her surprise was great when she witnessed her father exit the vehicle and mount the stairs to the main entrance, taking them two at a time. Soon he was shown into Jane’s room, still wearing his greatcoat, one of Mrs. Bennet’s capes draped over his arm.
“Come, Jane. We are to Longbourn,” Papa said as soon as he entered the room.
“But Mother and Mr. Jones said I was too ill to be moved,” Jane croaked out from beneath the pile of covers.
“You have a cold, and as Mrs. Bennet said upon receipt of your note yesterday morning, nobody dies from a trifling cold. I have brought with me her fur-lined cape, and there are no less than eight warming bricks in the carriage along with several more blankets. ‘Tis but five miles by road and you can rest your head on my shoulder as you did as a child if you become too fatigued.”
“Papa, while I get Jane dressed, could you have Mrs. Nicholls warm up a few of those bricks. They will have cooled some before we are ready to depart.”
“Of course, Lizzy. Have a footman come find me when you are ready. The carriage is standing by in front of the house.”
With that, her father left the room and Elizabeth heard him hail a footman to ask if Mrs. Nicholls was in her office. With a soft smile, she shook her head at her father’s impertinence. She knew he would have no qualms about seeking out the housekeeper in her own domain. He was quite familiar with Netherfield and its servants as his great friend, Lord Dunsmuir had been the last tenant prior to Mr. Bingley.
She turned her attention back to getting Jane fully dressed. There was nothing to pack, as Papa had shown up instead of the expected trunk full of necessities. She worried over Jane’s continuing fever, but it was not raging and her cough, though deep, did not steal her breath in any manner. Sleeping in her own bed and making good use of Hill’s homemade draughts were just the thing to bring her sister back to perfect health.
Although she had reclined on the bed unable to keep her eyes open, Jane was finally ready. Elizabeth opened the door and spied the footman, who had waited so patiently outside the door. She bade him fetch her father and coaxed Jane into a sitting position. They were ready to return home and although she desired to leave as quick as possible, she did not relish the uproar that would ensue upon their return.
However, such was Papa’s cross to bear. Not hers.